My daughter, Kimi, is developmentally delayed. This is code nowadays for “mental retardation”. But the words for her disability are irrelevant since I can tell you that sometimes Kimi is so brilliant that I question the meaning of the word “genius”.
Immediately after she was born, the doctors knew something was wrong and told us that Kimi’s development would be delayed. They said they had no idea what to expect but they doubted she’d ever walk or talk. For the first few years, it seemed as though their predictions might be well-founded. I often wondered whether there was anything happening inside her head at all. Her muscle tone was floppy and her look was vacant. Any smiles we glimpsed seemed unrelated to anything. My life felt the way she looked. I was depressed and numb most of the time. Still I did all the things a parent was supposed to do, including taking her for hours of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. To anyone watching, I took excellent care of her. She was my child so I had to love her, didn’t I?
Eventually, Kimi learned to sit-up, walk, and finally talk. As she began to become more aware of her surroundings and able to explore them, she was better able to express her needs and feelings, and to delight in the world around her. The depth of sheer joy she could experience is unlike any I had ever encountered. By the time she was 3 years old, I would awaken each morning to the tinkling sounds of Kimi giggling and laughing at some toy, or book, or simply the sunlight streaming across the wall of her bedroom. What could be so repeatedly enchanting about an old stuffed animal or the sensation of a glossy magazine on her fingertips? Once she had finally learned to walk and get out of her bed, she would toddle into my bedroom to awaken me, always with a kiss and a huge grin on her face as if to say, “Aren’t you absolutely delighted to see me, Mom? Isn’t life grand?” Kimi’s unconditional love of life radiated from her entire being. Her philosophy was contagious so that gradually I began to thaw and see the world through her eyes. Hers is a spiritual mindfulness that is hard to articulate, let alone emulate. But every day I aspire to be like her.
This year Kimi turned 21. She has made enormous progress over the years. She may never be able to accurately count-up the change in her purse or understand half of what she sees in a Disney movie, but what she does understand about life is of much greater value. She epitomizes kindness and unaffected goodness. In this she is gifted.
I believe that intelligence is overrated; that although our intelligence has brought us such wonderful inventions as the printing press, indoor plumbing, and computers, it has also brought us holocausts, the atom bomb, and global warming. We could all do with a little less progress and a little more unconditional love. I know it’s corny, but this I believe.
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